Crescent Over Cross?

>> Sunday, April 29, 2007

The second most asked question for me here in Doha is: "Are you Muslim?" (the first one is: "Can I get your number?" LoL). Seriously, after asking my name or nationality, the next one is the religion question, it's like filling up an application form everytime you meet a "brother". Sometimes I want to say that I am Muslim if only to stop them from converting me.

Conversion. Muslims stress that it is your own free will to convert. However, more and more people are trying to woo me to their side.

Every month, one guy would make it his mission to win my soul for Allah. Not that it's a bad mission, but I sometimes feel that they're missing the point. I'm not religious to begin with. I don't believe in religion. I believe in God or Allah. But I find religion too contrived a set-up.

Islam is a good religion. It may even be the religion. I've read the self-help books on Islam and there are very convincing points. But then, there are the sexist issues (ie men can have more than one wife while women are expected to be faithful to their husbands), and that, for me, can never be justified by any Holy book.

Missionary Styles
Don't get any dirty thoughts. Any Muslim can be a missionary. I thought I'd recall some first-hand experiences I had with some of the more persistent missionaries.

Missionary: Boss
Style: Give and Take

It's obvious that the first person who'd want to convert me would be my boss. During my first month here, he would bring me to big lunch gatherings with his friends. I admired the locals for their hospitality and warmth. A nice plan to attract a Christian. Then came the gifts. He gave me two sets of jalabiyas so I'd know how it feels like to be conservative, clean and pure. It felt nice to wear those clothes in public because it gave me the feeling that I belong. So what went wrong with the boss' plan? Nothing. I was stubborn, he was impatient. Soon enough, he grew tired of waiting for me to say "yes" to Islam. He doesn't bring me to lunch anymore, and no more gifts too.

Missionary: Officemate
Style: Press Release

Next to try his magic wand on me (well that sounded gay LoL) is this old officemate. He didn't try hard. He just told me a story on the day before Christmas. He saw me looking lonely and he asked me my tragedy. "It's Christmas" was all I could say. Then he told me a story of how generous and understanding Muslims are. I can't remember the exact "parable" but it ended with this Christian guy supposedly being cared for by a Muslim (might be their own version of the Good Samaritan). "So, tomorrow, I'll bring you Chicken and you will have your Christmas celebration," he said, so full of passion that I could almost hug him for being so kind. Christmas came and went. So did New Year. Even Eid passed. Valentines day zoomed in a heartbeat. But that chicken never came. A tall tale, if you ask me.

Missionary: Mr. Writer
Style: Convert to convert

Probably the best style ever. I wrote about Mr. Writer in Night of Coincidences. I was ready then to become a Muslim. Problem was, he was too busy converting other Christians that he rarely shows up to convince me further. Mr. Writer is American. He wrote several books on the study of Islam. Impressive studies. And there is something about a convert that puts you at ease because he knows what it was like to be a Christian.

Missionary: PC Guy
Style: Audio-Visual

One of the PC Guys next door was probably bored that one day he came up to me and asked if I was Muslim. "OH?! WHY NOT?!" was his horrified reaction, as if I was the only one left in the world who hasn't embraced Islam.

PC Guy then shared his Sura audio tracks and demanded I listen to them even if I couldn't understand Arabic.

Then he gave me a Quran. He placed the Holy Book on my table and gave me specific instructions to wash my whole body before reading the Book. When he said "whole body" he made a hand scrubbing gesture on his private area and stressed it again: "whole body". I told him I got it.

I wanted to move the Book from the table to the shelf, but he stopped me from even touching the Quran and told me to wait till morning when I have washed my "whole body" (yet again doing the wax-on wax-off motion on his crotch).

Everyday since then he'd ask about my progress. I didn't read much. Didn't even listen to the audios (it creeped me out). Finally, I told him that it's not a far fetched idea because my mom is a Muslim and that there is a big chance. He asked me why my mom didn't convince me to become a Muslim. I told him that my mom wants me to discover the beauty of Islam on my own much like she did before. He never asked me which Sura I was reading again.

Now, the boss' brother has ventured into the conversion idea as well, but he hasn't unleashed his style yet. I'm tempted to tell him to take a number or get in line.

I wish I could just be rude and say that I don't care much about religion . But I'm sure it would only make things worse. In fact I don't care so much that tomorrow I can convert to Islam and it won't make a difference to me. But I do believe in spirituality. And I'd rather not have a religion than be a hypocrite. I'm not saying that everyone who has a religion are hypocrites (a lot of people can actually live by the Book and I admire them for that), what I'm saying is that I'm not a saint, and I don't plan to be one anytime soon.

2 responses:

mo 30 April, 2007  

That was a very interesting post.

At the end of the day, it's the person's choice whether he wants to become Muslim or not. There is no compulsion in religion.

I do agree though that Muslims are keen to talk about their religion, and pass on the facts, but this shouldn't be done in a forceful manner, rather in a nice way.

The main thing is the person should believe, and understand.

If a person doesn't want to accept Islam, then that is his wise, and he is perfectly entitled to it!

Jap 30 April, 2007  

MO: You are right, "The main thing is the person should believe,and understand." That's why I don't want to become a Muslim just for the sake of it. I want to believe first. And this might take time for me, something that most of my missionaries can't seem to understand because they expect me to become a Muslim after a few days of reading booklets.

I know my mom would be happy if I converted but she doesn't force her religion on me and I appreciate that.

While I know most Muslims mean well when they approach me, sometimes, I can't help but wonder if they have a conversion quota to reach. I don't know.

It amazes me because my Chinese officemates are never approached like this. So maybe it is my calling c",)

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